What Are Symptoms of a Spinal Infection?


Quick Answer

Fever, chills, headache, neck stiffness, neck pain, wound redness, wound tenderness and wound drainage are symptoms of a spinal infection,according to the North American Spine Society. Sudden weakness, numbness or tingling sensations in the limbs are other symptoms.

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Full Answer

Bacteria or fungi are capable of causing infection in the spine due to surgical complications and are heightened by specific risk factors, states the North American Spine Society. These include poor nutrition, suppression of the immune system, HIV/AIDS, cancer, obesity and diabetes. Patients who undergo a particularly long surgery time or who undergo multiple operations are at increased risk to spinal infection. Approximately 4 percent of surgeries involve a spinal infection despite preventative measures. The majority of surgery-related spinal infections occur between three days and three months following surgery.

Diagnosis for spinal infection starts with a patient's history and a physical. It then proceed into a combination of X-ray imaging, computerized tomography scans and MRI scans. Nuclear medicine bone scans and nuclear medicine tagged white blood cell scans are typically reserved for more nebulous cases. Once the cause of the infection is determined, a culture must be taken. Antibiotic and antifungal medications are the most commonly prescribed treatments for spinal infections, although type and duration of treatment vary between pathogen in question and individual case. Surgical removal of infected tissue and washing may be required in more extreme cases.

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